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And the winner is…

Xtra West's 2005 Community Achievement Award recipients

YOUTH ACTIVIST OF THE YEAR: Jacob Schweda Credit: Jonathan Lee photo

By all accounts, this year’s ceremony was the best yet, as our community’s leaders and inspirations took their turns at the podium at Xtra West’s 2005 Community Achievement Awards.

“We’re here today to honour and to celebrate the people in our community, the people who fight for our rights, the people who entertain us, the people who represent us, the people who support us, the people who inspire us and the people who make our community just that–a community,” host Morgan Brayton told an enthusiastic crowd of about 300 people who gathered at Celebrities, May 14.

“These are our awards,” she continued. “They’re an opportunity to give thanks, to acknowledge the gains our community made in 2005, and to commit to each other that we will create many more reasons to celebrate at next year’s awards show.”

A record number of readers cast their ballots in March to nominate talented, deserving people in each category. A panel of Xtra West judges then had the challenging task of short-listing the finalists and selecting the winners in all but the business categories, which the Gay and Lesbian Business Association oversaw.

In the end, after much soul-searching and hearty debate, 13 trophies were engraved and 13 Heroes were called to the stage to accept our community’s thanks for their contributions in 2005.

Here’s a glimpse into what those Heroes had to say:

Jacob Schweda, Youth Activist of the Year

“Thank you so much! I really didn’t expect, a couple of years ago when I started the GSA [gay-straight alliance], to be standing in a gay nightclub in Vancouver!

Thanks to everyone who supported me, all the members of the GSA on Salt Spring Island and especially my mom and my family. And thank you to the community in general because even if I was the one who received this award, this tells all the youth that are working and fighting the problems that our fights matter, and we’ll keep fighting.”

Buster Cherry, Drag King of the Year

“Thank you all so very much! I, first of all, would like to thank Xtra West for the incredible honour of just being nominated. I would like to thank the Dogwood Monarchist Society for their acknowledgement and support. Just being a part of that whole organization is quite incredible. They’re an amazing fundraising organization. I would like to thank Little Sister’s because they have always been there for me, and especially Janine Fuller, my partner. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t even think I’d be standing here. And I would like to thank $3 Bill for kickin’ my ass–because that’s what they do!

I’m so honoured. It’s just an amazing thing to be part of such an amazing drag community that we have here in Vancouver. There’s so much talent. We are the drag capital of North America. I’m just so honoured to be a part of that.”

Pat Hogan, Lifetime Achievement Award

“This is very humbling and I’m very proud of it at the same time. I’m in front of a mike a lot but it’s usually presenting somebody else, so to present myself is a bit embarrassing!

I’ve had the privilege of bringing many, many performers into town over the years, lesbian performers in particular, people who have made a difference in our lives, who have established lesbian history. I’m really proud of being part of that community.

When I talk about community, I’m talking about many communities that I’ve been involved in over the years: the gay and lesbian community, the environmental community, the Wiccan community, the social justice community–we overlap over and over again. It’s not one person that makes it happen; it’s all of us. I couldn’t have done what I have done, and will continue to do, without everyone who is here and those who aren’t here.

Within a community, often someone sparks an idea into action and it happens. I’m not the kind of person who sits around and waits. I make things happen.

As a social activist, a feminist and a lesbian, I care about the world I live in and the people I work with. It isn’t always easy working together in a room full of opinionated, strong-willed people; I’m one of them. But the most important thing for all of us is, working together, we need to have respect for our differences, we need to listen to each other across our various social and ethnic backgrounds, our ages, our sexual orientations. That, to me, is essential in building community, and community is probably the most important thing in my life.

I’ll continue to do things until I drop, because that’s what I like doing. It’s this community that gives me a lot of energy in order to continue.”

The Bob Loblaw Queer Comedy Troupe, Live Performance of the Year (tie)

“We’ve been having a hoot working with people. It’s really weird because there’s so many people who are, like, changing the world, and we’re, like, changing our shoes! All we’re trying to do is have some fun and bring a little happiness into the gay community. Or as we like to say: hahhh-penis!”

Morgan Brayton, Live Performance of the Year (tie)

“I just want to thank Xtra West and everyone else for acknowledging the arts and performance as part of our community. It’s an important thing. It’s a big part of who we are and how we express ourselves and how we interact and engage with each other.”

Jim Deva, Terry Wallace Business Legacy Award

“Thank you so very, very much! I’ve always been extremely proud of being a gay person, and also for being a business person. I think I’ve been blessed with being able to be a part of an organization that, for the last 23 years, has been embraced by our community. You know, if our cash register didn’t ring we couldn’t fight the battles. If people didn’t think we were still important and that we had merchandise that was important, and continue to honour us by coming to our doors and being our customers, all the rest would not be possible.

This Terry Wallace award means a great deal. I worked with Terry when we founded the Pride Society in ’83 and ’84 and ’85, and Terry Wallace was just an amazing individual. To be honoured in his name–it means a great deal.”

Michael Harris, Writer of the Year

“If it’s not too dorky, I think I want to dedicate this to Little Sister’s bookstore, which is going back to court again probably, hopefully. Because I worked there for a few years and I learned so much there. Not just about butt plugs and stuff, but about how important it is to take care of our stories. So I’m just really, really grateful for that.”

Glenn MacDonald, Athlete/Sports Organization of the Year

“This award is for Team Vancouver. For all the athletes and cultural participants who have been to a Gay Games or will be at one. It’s all about teamwork and you’re all invited to join the team.”

Patrick Fillion, Visual Artist of the Year

Mark Goodwin, Vancity/Xtra West Volunteer of the Year

Graham Bingham, GLBA Business Citizen of the Year

Charley Beresford, Straight Ally of the Year